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4 key themes of Modern Design + How to apply them in your home

Posted on 25 March 2017

The Modern design style is difficult to pin down, as, depending on who you ask, it can encompass pretty much anything from the start of the Modernism movement which began in the late 1800’s. So modern style is actually pretty old! The point was to break away from the very heavy, ornate wood, hand-crafted looks that had gone before it, instead embracing strong simple lines and mass production.

Clean Straight Lines  + Smooth Surfaces


As mentioned, modern design was a reaction to the styles that preceded, which relied heavily on wood, heavy textures, lots of intricate detail…so modern design embraces clean straight lines. Choose furnishings with corners rather than curves. Opt for clean untextured smooth surfaces where possible - high gloss tables and buffets look great. If you have floorboards, sand them down to minimise grain and texture.

Use of Metal


Modern design saw the end of traditional metals such as wrought iron replaced by stainless steel and chrome. Choose furniture with exposed metal legs. Incorporate this finish on faucets, doorknobs, cabinet handles. A classic example of great modern design using metal is the very modern chrome ARC Floor Lamp, which has been a popular staple in many a Modern home for the last few decades (although we are now seeing contemporary versions in different surface finishes!)

Less is More


Modern decor is definitely quite minimalist in it’s approach, but is not to be confused with the stark, often cold spaces synonymous with the Minimalism movement. In terms of layout, open plan spaces with few walls are the norm. Any storage, where possible, should be built into walls and alcoves, rather than protruding into the room. Handles on doors and cupboards should be sleek and straight. Overuse of decorative pieces such as throw pillows, vases, and other such items will only make your space look cluttered.

Natural Palettes with Pops of Colour


Excessive use of both colour and pattern is a no-no; opt for a neutral palette that features black and white accents, and where appropriate add pops of block colour - cushions and floor rugs are an easy way to achieve this, but bear in mind that use of cushions and rugs should be kept to a minimum - think of functional use rather than simply decorative. Another great way to bring colour in is to have one colourful statement piece such as a chair or piece of art. Primary colours are a popular choice. Red pops work well with black, white and grey bases, as does green. Different shades of cool greys will look great with blue accents. And if you are feeling bold, a black and white palette looks great when paired with shocks of sunshine yellow. But experiment with colour combos to find what works for you! 


Kirsty is a Sydney based Interior Designer & Stylist who; like Hazrat Inayat Khan believes "Some People Look For a Beautiful Place, Others Make a Place Beautiful" Learn more about Kirsty at


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